Wednesday, 3 September 2008

On my soapbox...

I heard something on the radio this morning that made me cringe, something about “…John McCain’s campaign for President of America…”


President of America???


This is one of those issues that really, really grate my nerves. Why is it that the citizens of the United States feel that ‘America’ is just the name of their country, when in reality it is the name of a whole continent? The worst part is that it’s not just them, but the Brits that follow that convention too and constantly talk about going to ‘America’ for a holiday, when they really mean the USA or even just Florida. WHY?


It is no good trying to narrow it down to North America, because both Canada and Mexico are also part of North America. So I can truthfully say that not only am I Mexican but I am also North American – because I was born in Mexico, which is a part of N. America, and the same goes for Canadians (who probably get even more annoyed at being confused with those from the USA).


I guess the main problem is that the United States of America is technically a country without a name. We can’t call it America because that is the continent and although United States is more accurate, few people know that the correct and full name of Mexico is the United States of Mexico, but granted that is being petty. So I guess we can call it the United States and I'll be happy with that.


What does that make its citizens though? ‘Americans’? Well yes, in the sense that they are citizens of a country in the American continent, but Brazilians, Colombians, Canadians and Argentineans are all also ‘Americans’. The correct name would probably be something like ‘United Statesians’ but they are hardly ever called that (besides being a bit of a tongue twister). I personally like ‘Gringos’ but I am not sure they do… so what do we call them, to distinguish them from all other citizens of the American continent?


“Proud to be American” is a very common phrase. But what does it really mean – proud to have been born in the American continent, as opposed to Europe or Asia? Then a lot of people up and down the continent can say this phrase without being wrong or having ever even set foot in the USA. “God bless America” (besides being a bit of a weird thing to say, for all sorts of other reasons) should not be interpreted as meaning just the USA, really. “My fellow Americans” is a favourite of politicians – are they addressing the whole continent?


Isn’t it weird that one of the most powerful countries in the world doesn’t really have a name for itself or its people?

3 comments:

Jane said...

Here, here! I am from the United States of America and I agree completely. Why couldn't we have a name like everyone else??? And why can't even the BBC get that the hemisphere they refer to as 'The Americas' has many, many unique cultures. Canada is not like the USA and the USA is not like Mexico and Mexico is not a carbon copy of the other countries above it or below it! Well said, Claudia!

Gin said...

I can see what you mean Claudia. I think people who are Welsh and Scottish have a similar problem here as many lump them in with England. However, from the other side I don't like to be called a European and how come on official forms I have to be British. I'm English and proud of it.

Shazza911 said...

Maybe it's that centre of the universe mentality. They are a powerful nation and the rest of us just sit back and watch. Being from Canada, I'm proud to be a Canadian and prefer to be called just that. If someone was going to refer to me as a continental resident, I'd go for North American just to distinguish myself from the common term american and how everyone associates that to exactly what you are talking about!!

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